My First TYO Lesson: Learning Through Play

When it comes to teaching – especially for first-timers like myself – it’s easy to fall into the safe and traditional style of teaching we’re all used to: standing in front of the class, reciting, and having the children respond back. For years, teachers and educators around the world did just that and believed it to be effective; they never would have considered play as a way to teach (never mind an essential part of learning!). Ashleycatch

What is “play” anyway? Play is recreation, amusement, or in “kid terms” – fun! Even more, says special education professional and creator of Play Reflections Jeanne Bassis, “Play is not just about doing, it’s about being. Play is about grace, innocence, wonder and creativity… and happens when anyone is truly living in the present tense.” For children, play is a way of life. There is no distinction between learning and play; in fact, playing is the only way they can learn!

Enter Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, where I currently intern as an ESL teacher for 4-5 and 6-8 year olds. In my first two weeks here, it is clear that TYO does a fabulous job of teaching through play, and it has not doubt proven to be one-hundred percent effective.

I am a first-time teacher, but I am not new to working with kids; though challenging, I truly enjoy it. Of course, teaching presented many new challenges and lessons to learn. My first class, my approach was to stand in front of the class and say “Hello,” then have the children repeat after me – basically the conventional teaching approach. It all seemed to go well until I introduced “Goodbye.” It was the same approach: listen and repeat, listen and repeat. When I entered class, the students greeted me with “Hello!” However, when the children left, they did not know what greeting to say, and I realized that they had just been repeating without understanding the true meaning of the phrases. I quickly realized that the children being able to repeat “Hello!” and “Goodbye!” did not mean understanding the meaning.

So the next day, I switched it up! I split the class into small teams and had them enter and leave the room as we, together, said “Hello” and “Goodbye”. Having the children work competitively and playfully in teams, and having them act out the actions with the words, made a world of difference. How do I know it worked? Now, without any prompt, the children greet me with “Hello” when they see me and “Goodbye” at the end of class.

I am certainly not the first intern at TYO – I’m actually one of about a hundred before me! – and I am certainly not the first to experience firsthand teaching through play. I can say that I am one of many who have tried teaching through play and succeeded. That is one of the great things about TYO; there are tried-and-true methods for the best way to teach our kids. This week my kids went home elated, singing A for apple and B for bounce. It was the best lesson that learning through play really is the best way to create a love of learning.

- Ashley, TYO Summer 2015 Intern